Pittsburgh City Council officially voted down Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s controversial plan to lease out the city’s parking garages and meters Tuesday morning.
The result of the vote did not come as a surprise after a preliminary vote last week and Ravenstahl’s comments on Monday.
Many of the people who spoke before the vote wanted City Council to table the bill until the city could explore more alternatives.
Ravenstahl’s plan was a way of funding Pittsburgh’s pension plan.
The chamber was packed with firefighters, who supported the lease plan, and and police union members, who hadn’t endorsed the plan, but also urged council to table it until more options could be explored.
Nobody was more emotional than Pittsburgh Firefighter’s Union President, Joe King, who encouraged council members to go to Harrisburg and work on legislation that affects the operations of Pittsburgh and homeowners of 88 communities.
King exchanged more heated words with council members and many of the public safety officials in attendance walked out.
“Rejection of our plan is equivalent to endorsing state takeover,” Ravenstahl said on Monday. “Why? Because just as we predicted long ago no other viable alternatives exist.”
“I cannot and will not be held responsible for actions of City Council no matter how irresponsible I find those actions to be,” he said.
Last week, City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak talked more about the decision.
“Collectively, we’ve had dozens of community meetings and I think that this plan has been universally panned by citizens and small businesses across the city,” Rudiak said. “So, we’ve listened to our constituents, we’re looking at other options and we think there are better alternatives out there.”
Ravenstahl rejects the idea that higher meters and garage rates will hurt local residents and force businesses out of the city.
City Councilman Patrick Dowd has joined with Council President Darlene Harris and Councilwoman Rudiak to offer an alternative plan that incorporates ideas offered by City Controller Michael Lamb.
Rudiak said under what they call the “Council-Controller Plan,” parking rates will go up, but by a smaller amount.
Under the plan, the Parking Authority would potentially buy parking facilities for $220 million and that money would go into the city’s troubled pension fund.
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